2011 Ashland University Football - Week 5
Ashland (2-2/2-1 GLIAC) at Northwood (1-3/0-3)
Saturday, Oct. 1, Noon
Hantz Stadium, Midland, Mich.
This week's Ashland-at-Northwood contest can be heard live on WNCO-AM (1340) with Matt Brubaker handling the play-by-play and Don Graham providing the commentary. The game can be heard at www.wncoam.com. AU assistant sports information director Brendan Bittner will also be operating a live blog on http://athletics.ashland.edu during the game. Fans can follow and comment on the game using that medium.
Looking Ahead and Behind
Ashland is coming off a 45-16 win last Saturday night against Northern Michigan. The Northwood game is the first of two consecutive road games for AU. After this Saturday's game, Ashland travels to Tiffin. The Eagles have yet to win consecutive games this season. The Eagles are listed, "Among Others Receiving Votes," in this week's AFCA national poll.
Northwood lost at Saginaw Valley State, 28-20 last Saturday in the annual Axe Bowl game. The Timberwolves lug a three-game losing streak into this week's game. Northwood's lone win came against Findlay on Sept. 3, 14-10.
The Eagles viewed last week's game as a must-win situation if they wanted to entertain any hopes of competing for a GLIAC title and an NCAA Division II playoff berth. In the GLIAC South Division, Wayne State (ranked ninth in the country) and Hillsdale (24th in the nation) are 3-0. In the GLIAC North Division, Saginaw Valley State is the only remaining unbeaten team. SVSU is 3-0 and is listed, "Among Others Receiving Votes," in this week's poll.
The Ashland-Northwood Series
The Eagles hold an 18-13-1 edge in the all-time series with Northwood. The Eagles have won the last four engagements, including a 37-17 decision in Ashland last season. During this streak, the Eagles haven't scored less than 33 points. This is the third time AU has won four consecutive times against NU. That is Ashland's longest winning streak against the Timberwolves.
Northwood's longest winning streak against Ashland is three games (2000-02). This series began in 1963 with a 13-3 Northwood win. Northwood's last win over the Eagles was in Midland in 2006, 33-19. AU head coach Lee Owens is 4-1 against Northwood.
A look at the recent games between the schools can be found below.
2008 – Ashland 43 at Northwood 24 – The Eagles scored the game's first 20 points. With 3:20 left in the third quarter AU was in front, 40-10. AU outgained the 'Wolves, 586-405. Quarterback Billy Cundiff completed 18-of-24 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Johnny Long caught five passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Ashland controlled the ball for 37:13 and had 28 first downs. AU had three pass plays of 52 or more yards.
2009 – At Ashland 33, Northwood 20 – Ashland jumped in front, 17-3 at halftime. The Eagles forced four turnovers, which hurt any chance the 'Wolves had of getting back in the game. Wide receiver Joe Horn hauled in a 96-yard TD pass from Cundiff – that's one of two 96-yard receptions Horn had in his career (96 yards is the longest pass play in school history). Cundiff had another big day against NU, completing 19-of-28 passes for 366 yards and four scores. In this game, he also rushed for a team-high 63 yards. Horn had eight catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Defensive back Quinton Scott and linebacker Marcus Council had 12 tackles apiece.
2010 – At Ashland 37, Northwood 17 – The Timberwolves received a huge dose of D.J. McCoy (Cleveland, Ohio/Collinwood). The AU slot back had 131 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Quarterback Taylor Housewright (Ashland, Ohio) clicked on 20-of-24 pass attempts for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Horn caught seven passes for 100 yards. Linebacker Carmon Wolfe had a monster game with 17 tackles (11 solo), three tackles for loss (14 yards), one sack (eight yards) and a forced fumble. At halftime, AU was clinging to a 16-9 lead. Ashland broke the game open with 14 points in the third quarter and led, 30-9 entering the final 15 minutes.
Ashland's Best Against Northern Michigan
Julian Goodwine (Dayton, Ohio/Thurgood Marshall) – Goodwine had 12 tackles (nine solo) in last year's game.
D.J. McCoy (Cleveland, Ohio/Collinwood) – McCoy has rushed for 244 yards on 55 carries (4.4 ypc.) in three games against Northwood. He's reached the end zone three times.
Tyler McFarlin (Ashland, Ohio) – In two career games against NU McFarlin has 14 tackles and a pair of pass breakups.
Matt Stoinoff (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain) – Stoinoff has 3.0 tackles for loss against the Timberwolves in the last two meetings. He had five tackles (four solo) a year ago.
Head coach Lee Owens – Owens is in his eighth season as AU's head coach. His record at Ashland is 51-30. His career record on the college level is 91-91. Before taking over the AU program, Owens spent nine years as the head coach at the University of Akron. Owens has guided the Eagles to a pair of NCAA playoffs appearances (2007, 2008). Owens is the only coach to lead AU to the postseason twice and he's the only coach in school history to win a postseason game (27-16 over Minnesota State, 2008). Owens has won eight or more games in a season at Ashland four times.
Before coaching on the college level, Owens was a successful high school coach in Ohio. His record on the prep level in 11 seasons is 89-32-2. He coached four years at storied Massillon Washington High School where he went 35-13. He won a state championship in 1985 while coaching at Galion (14-0). His record there was 33-11-1 and his 1985 team won the state title with a 6-0 triumph over Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the state championship game. Owens has never held a coaching job outside of Ohio.
Eye on the Eagles
Jordan McCune (Bellville, Ohio/Clear Fork), AU's freshman tailback, rambled for a career-high 143 yards on 21 carries last week. McCune is second in the GLIAC in scoring (42 points/10.5 ppg.) and touchdowns (seven) and is seventh in rushing (396 yards/99.0 ypg./5.0 ypc.). McCune had two touchdowns last week…junior wide receiver Anthony Capasso (Columbia Station, Ohio/St. Edward) is tied for seventh in receptions per game (18/4.5 rpg.). He's sixth in kickoff return average (22.4 ypr.) and 10th in all-purpose yards per game (124.5)…freshman wide receiver Eric Thompkins (Canton, Ohio/South) has shown potential as a deep threat the last two games. Over the last two weeks, he has caught eight passes and averaged 19.5 ypc., with a pair of touchdown catches. On the year, he has 13 catches and averages 17.6 ypc. Thompkins is 10th in the GLIAC in receiving yards per game (57.2).
McCoy, AU's senior slot back, saw action in last week's game, rushing for 12 yards and two touchdowns on six carries. McCoy had been out with an ankle injury since carrying the ball seven times in the opener at Bloomsburg…Housewright, AU's junior quarterback, has completed 63-of-106 passes (59.4 percent) for 597 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Against Northern Michigan Housewright completed 7-of-11 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown…kicker Gregg Berkshire (Ashland, Ohio) is first in the conference in kick scoring (42 points/10.5 ppg.), field goals (9-13/2.25 fpg.) and extra points (15-of-15, 1.000). He is tied for second in scoring and third in punting (41.7 ypp.). Berkshire is AU's career leader in field goals (49), extra points (133) and points (280). In his career, Berkshire is 133-of-144 on extra point attempts (.924) and 49-of-68 (.721) on field goal tries.
Stoinoff (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain) is tied for second in the conference in tackles for loss (5.5/1.38 tpg.). Stoinoff is the team leader in tackles (33/16 solo). Sophomore linebacker Cody Bloom (Napoleon, Ohio) is second on the team in stops (31/19 solo)…senior defensive back Tyler Krummel (Akron, Ohio/Hoban) has 26 tackles (15 solo) and is third on the team in tackles…McFarlin recorded a career-high 11 tackles (seven solo) last Saturday. He's fifth on the team in tackles (25/14 solo)…senior defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton (Chicago, Ill./Joliet Junior College) has 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks…sophomore defensive tackle Jamie Meder (Parma, Ohio/Valley Forge) also has 3.5 tackles for loss…AU has nine players with 21 or more tackles.
The Eagles are second in the GLIAC in scoring at 34.5 ppg. Ashland is first in red zone offense, scoring 88.9 percent of the time it reaches that territory. AU is 16-of-18 in the zone with 13 touchdowns. AU is third in fewest penalty yards per game (26.2) and opponent third down conversion rate (32.8 percent) and fourth in turnover margin (+5).
Last Look at Last Week
Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field/at the Dwight Schar Athletic is not quite three years old. Still, the Northern Michigan Wildcats must felt like they saw some ghosts at the facility last Saturday night.
The Wildcats took a 13-0 lead over the Eagles with 6:45 left in the first quarter. At that point, the 'Cats were dominating play and looked to be in perfect position to end an eight-game losing streak in Ashland. But after NMU failed to convert a fourth-and-one situation at the AU 44 at the end of the first quarter, the momentum turned and those ghouls of games past began to emerge. Ashland scored the game's next 31 points and won going away, 45-16. NMU's first trip to Broad Street ended like their last eight visits to Community Stadium.
The Eagles intercepted NMU quarterback Carter Kopach twice and sacked him three times. AU had a season-high 10 tackles for loss (44 yards). The Eagles recovered one NMU fumble and blocked a punt.
McCune rushed for 143 yards on 21 carries and along with the defense, helped turn around the game. McCune's first score came with 7:17 left in the first half on a 6-yard run and brought the Eagles to within, 13-10. AU took the lead for good with 3:37 remaining in the half on a 1-yard run by McCoy. That put the Eagles in front, 17-13 and that was the score at halftime.
Ashland put the game away with 21 third-quarter points. Less than two minutes into the third quarter, McCune reached the end zone on an 8-yard run and AU led, 24-13. With 11:29 to go in the quarter, defensive back Ryan Stackhouse (Ashland, Ohio) blocked a punt and Da'Vell Winters (Marion, Ohio/Marion Harding) fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Berkshire's extra point made it 31-13 and the Eagles were on their way to their second win of the season.
The Eagles outgained the Wildcats, 352-289. At the end of the first quarter, NMU had 155 yards of total offense and eight first downs. Over the final three quarters, the Wildcats had 197 yards of total offense and nine first downs. Most of AU's damage on offense came on the ground where the Eagles gained 255 yards and averaged 5.0 ypc.
Owens on Last Week's Games
"It was the opposite of the scenario I hoped for. I'm standing there on the sideline thinking, 'I'm going to rip their butts at halftime.' Next thing I know we've got the lead."
Gridiron Club Players of the Week
Each week, the Ashland University Gridiron Club presents players of the week for offense, defense and special teams. This week's recipients can be found below.
Game Offense Defense Special Teams
Bloomsburg McCune Pendleton Berkshire
Indianapolis Housewright Pendleton Berkshire
Hillsdale Capasso Meder Soucie
NMU Vermillion Stoinoff Stackhouse
This week's game films were obviously well received in the Troop Center. In the eyes of the Eagles, these were award-winning performances, particularly for the offensive line.
At the beginning of this season, the AU offensive line was identified as a point of concern. No one is suggesting that this unit has grown up and reached its peak, but it is showing steady improvement. Last week's game against Northern Michigan has to be considered the high point of the season.
"The line played as well as it has in a while," said Owens. "They totally controlled a big, strong, physical Northern Michigan offensive line. They really controlled it. Their number 94 (Zach Anderson), we blocked him. He wasn't a factor. That's a confidence booster. Balil Knight (Cleveland, Ohio/Shaw) did a great job blocking him. That will help him down the road."
Owens considers Anderson to be one of the top two or three defensive linemen in the league. Last week's Gridiron Club offensive player of the week award went to offensive lineman Zach Vermillion (Bellefontaine, Ohio), but several other linemen could have received that citation. Owens had high praise for every player on the line. While AU has had dominating performances on the line before, Owens couldn't remember ever handling a nationally-ranked team in the trenches like the Eagles did last Saturday.
The Eagles have not done a lot of switching up front either. The five starters have handled a heavy workload so far this season.
Turning On the Power
It's hard to kick sand in the face of anyone when you're playing on ProGrass. Still, that's a good way to describe the power game the Eagles unleashed last week.
Owens believes that in the first three games of the season, the Eagles used a two-back, two H-Back formation five times. Against Northern Michigan, AU lined up that way 16 times. The result was a ground game that knocked the Wildcats back on their heels.
The AU coaches believe that Ashland's young backs are comfortable in the two-back formation. Ashland also has a group of H-Backs who can help that running game thrive. That unit is led by senior Mike Knueven (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier). While those players, still referred to by Owens as tight ends, earned plaudits for their blocking, Owens believes they will soon be rewarded with more passes being thrown their way.
"We need to get them more involved," admitted Owens. "Teams have done some things to take it away. I think our tight ends will become real big pass options."
Owens emphasized this week that when the Eagles have been at their best offensively during his tenure, everything has started with the running game. Once that clicks, there are more options in the passing game. Knueven has caught 10 passes. A year ago, he had 25 receptions.
Mac and Stack
When this season began, Stackhouse and fellow defensive back Mike McMillan (Hagerstown, Md./Mendocino College) hoped to be regulars in the secondary. Both spent most of the first three games coming off the bench. Against Northern Michigan both had stellar performances and helped turn around the game.
On the final play of the first half, with AU clinging to a 17-13 lead, the Wildcats had the ball, third-and-goal on the AU2. NMU quarterback Carter Kopach threw a pass to Christian King-Marble who pitched the ball back to tailback Prince Young. That dash of trickery might have worked, but McMillan never left his assignment, held his ground and took Young down for a four-yard loss. McMillan ended the game with six tackles (five solo) and his first interception of the season.
Early in the third quarter, Stackhouse roared through the line and blocked a punt. The Eagles recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and a 31-13 lead. Stackhouse had eight tackles (three solo). He was a factor on special teams all game long.
"He (McMillan) made the big play at the end of the half," said Owens. "That was probably the biggest play of the game. Stack put a knife in it. That's two big plays."
If the Eagles are to continue to improve, they will need those kinds of contributions from players who aren't always in the limelight. As for Stackhouse and McMillan, they give the Eagles experience on special teams and in the secondary. Owens was asked if through the first three games the two players ever got depressed and questioned their roles.
"They've been great," Owens said. "There's been no letdown at all."
The Information Network
Moments after the Eagles defeated Northern Michigan, fans in the stadium were asking about the outcome of the Findlay-Grand Valley State game, which the Oilers eventually won, 26-20. That upset attracted everyone's attention.
Of course today, with the internet, texting and email, it's not hard to get someone's attention on the most miniscule piece of information. Some coaches lose sleep on that and go to great lengths to try and control the flow of information. That's a bit like trying to cross the English Channel on a bobsled.
"I don't think so," replied Owens when asked if the constant flow of information has made it harder for him and if he worried about a loss of focus on his players' part. "I don't have to explain it to them."
Today, there are statistics piled on top of statistics and every trend is magnified and broken down. There are few secrets. Owens says the days of trying to falsely build up an opponent have gone the route of leather helmets.
"You can't fool them," he said of his players.
Yard Markers and Milestones
- The 11 pass attempts and seven completions the Eagles had last week are both the lowest totals of the Owens era. The last time Ashland had fewer pass attempts was on Oct. 20, 2001 at Ashland's Community Stadium when Matt McCullough completed 5-of-10 passes for 73 yards against Northern Michigan. Ashland won that game, 26-14. J.R. McCoy rushed for 270 yards on 37 carries. That's also the last time AU had fewer than seven completions. Against Wayne State on Oct. 22, 2005, the Eagles completed seven passes. The last time Ashland had fewer passing yards than last week's 97 yards was on Oct. 31, 2009, against Indianapolis when AU threw for 71 yards in a 19-3 win.
- Over the last three years, AU is 10-4 (.714) in October.
- Ashland has been outscored in the first quarter, 26-0. A year ago, the Eagles outscored the opposition in the first quarter, 130-43.
- This week's game marks the first time this season the Eagles will play in the afternoon and on grass.
- Dating back to last season, AU has scored 30 or more points in 10 of its last 11 games.
- Over the last two seasons, AU played three games that lasted three hours or more (out of 22 games). This year, AU has gone past three hours in two of four games.
The GLIAC Chart
The Eagles are third in all-time winning percentage in GLIAC play. Entering the 2011 season 21 schools have played GLIAC football. These records date back to 1973 and include conference games only. Listed below are the top five schools by winning percentage.
School Games W L T Pct.
Grand Valley State 291 232 56 3 .797
Butler 30 22 7 1 .750
Ashland 209 124 85 0 .593
Saginaw Valley State 289 169 117 3 .585
Hillsdale 293 167 125 1 .570
The Scouting Report
Head Coach Mike Sullivan – Sullivan is in his fourth season as NU's head coach. This is his 10th season with the program. Before being elevated to the top job at Northwood he was the associate head coach and offensive line coach under Pat Riepma. In 2007, all five starters on the NU offensive line earned All-GLIAC honors. A year ago, Sullivan guided the Timberwolves to a 5-6 finish, 5-5 in the conference. His record entering this week's game is 15-18. This is the only head coaching position he has held. Sullivan is a 1998 Saginaw Valley State graduate.
Notes on Northwood
Northwood runs out of the Woodbone on offense and lines up in the 4-3 on defense…in this year's GLIAC coaches' preseason poll, Northwood was picked to finish fifth in the GLIAC North Division…the Timberwolves bring back 11 starters from 2010 – six on defense, four on offense and one on special teams…both of NU's touchdowns last week came from defense and special teams. Junior linebacker Ryan Whittum returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown. That's the first interception return for a score by an NU player since 2005…Northwood is 14th in the GLIAC in total offense (274.2 ypg.). The Timberwolves are third in red zone defense (72.7 percent), first in kickoff return average (26.7 ypr.) and fifth in turnover margin (+4/1.00)…in last week's 28-20 loss to Saginaw Valley State, Northwood was outgained, 372-194. The 'Wolves had 69 yards rushing…this year's opening game with Findlay was delayed an hour due to storms.
Watch These 'Wolves
Joe Bitterman – Bitterman is a 6-1, 195-pound defensive back. He has two interceptions this season.
Cameron Jackson – Jackson gives the Timberwolves big-play potential. He is second in the GLIAC in kickoff return average (30.1 ypr./15-451) and he's third in all-purpose yards per game (178.5). Jackson is NU's leading rusher with 263 yards on 63 carries (4.2 ypc.).
Quillan Mathis – Mathis has caught a team-high 11 passes for 240 yards (21.8 ypc.). Mathis is a 6-3, 199-pound senior wide receiver.
Jefson Nelson – A 6-1, 250-pound sophomore defensive lineman, Nelson has a team-leading 5.0 tackles for loss.
Aaron Shavers – The NU quarterback has rushed for 142 yards and completed 31-of-60 passes (.517) for 511 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Shavers ran for 109 yards on 21 carries (5.2 ypc.) against AU last year.
Ryan Whittum – Whittum, a safety, has a team-high 33 tackles (16 solo) and an interception. The 6-3, 220-pound junior had nine tackles last Saturday.
Owens on the Timberwolves
"The strength of their football team is special teams. They are one of the top kick return teams in the country. They about took one to the house against us last year. They forced a fumble and picked it up and scored on the kick team (last week). They are really good at what they do on special teams. They put their best athletes on special teams. It will be one of our biggest challenges.
"They haven't turned the ball over and they're throwing the ball a little more than in the past. It's (option offense) so hard to simulate. After our JV game on Monday I went in and challenged our scout team. On Wednesday they need to simulate Northwood. They've been in looking at tape, looking at the wishbone. It's an offense that can create problems for you. When it gets going, we've been on that side. You aren't going to stop it completely."
The Eagles will travel to Tiffin next Saturday (Oct. 8, 2:30 p.m.).